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Are Unspoken Expectations Crippling Your Volunteer Team?

See if you can relate to one of these scenarios:

Jill is at it again. She has all the kids in her small group gathered around her, and she’s showing them a video on her cell phone. You walk by and catch a glimpse of gorillas and . . . wait! Is that a gun? Just last week you had to gently remind her that taking her small group across the (very busy!) street to Dairy Queen was not okay. You make a mental note to call her this week . . . again.

You pop in to make sure everything is running smoothly for the student hangout time on Wednesday. You’re excited because Danny recently agreed to take charge of this time. He’s in his early 20s, and the middle-schoolers really connect with him. He’s served with students before, and when he moved to your area and found your church, he didn’t waste any time getting connected. When you look around, you notice something missing. THE FOOD! This night is doomed. . . .

Sam has been serving in the 3s classroom for almost six months now. You’re actually surprised he’s still there. Every time you walk by the room, you can see him standing awkwardly against the wall, watching. He never seems to really interact much with the kids—unless they come over to him. And he seems more than happy to let the other volunteers do all the work.

Each of these stories is the result of volunteers who aren’t sure what’s expected of them. Jill has a heart for building relationships with kids, but she doesn’t know her boundaries. Danny is flustered because at his old church, the parents took turns bringing in the snacks, and he assumed it would be the same here. Sam loves the three-year-olds, but didn’t want to step on the toes of volunteers who have been there longer, so he tries to stay out of their way.

As a leader, you are responsible for making sure every volunteer knows what is expected. Here’s how:

Have clear written expectations.

Create an expectation sheet that you can give to every volunteer, specific to their position. Include things like arrival time, dress code, and pertinent security measures. Sometimes we assume everyone already knows those things. As you create the expectations, leave room for volunteers to make the ministry their own, and not just follow your instructions.

Give volunteers the expectations.

Written expectations aren’t doing any good until they are in the hands of your volunteers. Create a system for welcoming every new volunteer with a packet of all their need-to-knows, and go over them together. Schedule strategic times each year to give a copy to all current volunteers. You live, breathe, and sleep ministry, but your volunteers may not. A reminder of what is expected will keep your ministry moving forward together.

Repeat your expectations.

Take every opportunity to communicate your expectations to your volunteers. Focus on one expectation a week and make a 30 second video to share in your Facebook group. Discuss expectations in your Sunday huddles. And praise people when you catch them upholding these expectations!

As you think through this process for your ministry, don’t get caught focusing solely on the “what.” Tell your volunteers the “why” behind the “what.” Show them how their expectations tie into fulfilling the vision of your church.

Clear expectations honor your volunteers, and result in the kingdom of God expanding. Don’t be afraid of setting expectations! You will begin to see an incredible payoff in your ministry.

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